Thursday, March 31, 2011

Total Victory

Thursday, March 31, 2011 -- Week of 3 Lent, Year One
John Donne, Priest, 1631
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 954)
Psalms [83], or 42, 43 (morning)        85, 86 (evening)
Jeremiah 10:11-24
Romans 5:12-21
John 8:21-32

When Paul thinks about the wonder of Christ's cross and resurrection, he cannot help but declare total victory on behalf of Christ.  He thinks of the consequences of Adam's disobedience -- judgment and condemnation for all.  All die.  Then he thinks of the consequences of Jesus' obedience -- justification and life for all.  All live.  If Adam's disobedience brought death, how much more will Christ's obedience bring life. 

In one sense, Paul says, they can't be compared.  Christ's victory is so much greater, so much more total and universal than Adam's failure.  They are not to be compared, says Paul.  Whatever was lost by Adam is more than restored by Christ.  "If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

"Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all."  The victory is total, says Paul.  If because of Adam's sin every human being was consigned to mortal death, much more surely will every human being receive the free gift of eternal life through the victory of Jesus Christ.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul put it even more succinctly:  "for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ."  (1 Cor. 15:22)

Paul also argues that later, with Moses, came the law, and the law increased the level of condemnation because the law gave people more consciousness of their sin.  Yet grace abounds even more profoundly than law ever could.  "But law came in," Paul writes, "with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Here in Romans when Paul contemplates the glory of Christ's gift, he can't imagine anything but total victory, universal salvation.  There are other places in his writing when he seems to think there are some who can resist this gift of life, but here as he thinks of the consequences of Jesus' work, the implication is complete and total victory.  Christ has established an ontological change in the order of things.  In Christ, all that was separated is reunited, all that was lost is redeemed. 

We still see a struggle going on in our own mortal lives, Paul says.  We don't always live by the light and life we have been given.  Some even resist the free gift of loving acceptance.  For now, humanity struggles to live into the fullness of the grace we have been given.  But Paul has absolute confidence in Christ, and in the final completeness of Christ's victory.  We will see Paul work with the implications of this confidence later in this letter to the Romans as he discusses the circumstances of those who have rejected Christ and his cross, particularly his own kinfolk the Jews. 

Every time Paul looks at something that seems to be partial failure, he can only imagine even greater future victory.  The failure of the Jews to accept Jesus as their Messiah opened the door for the inclusion of all others into God's promises.  No failure can threaten Christ's greater victory.  Therefore be confident.  Be fearless.  We are free to love all, because Christ's grace extends to all.

Today is the feast of John Donne.  In one of his poems, he picks up the tradition that the cross of Calvary happened at the place of Adam's sin or at the location of Adam's grave.  Donne personalizes Christ's envelopment of Adam's sin into the triumph that Paul also celebrates.  Donne asks that in himself may this wonderful victory of Christ be repeated in Donne's on person.  That which is cast down is raised up.

We thinke that Paradise and Calvarie,
Christs Crosse, and Adams tree, stood in one place;
As the first Adams sweat surrounds my face
May the last Adams blood my soule embrace.

So, in his purple wrapp'd receive mee Lord,
By these thornes give me his other Crowne;
And as to others soules I preach'd thy word,
Be this my Text, my Sermon to my owne,
Therefore that he may raise the Lord throws down.

"Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification for all."


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

COOOOOOL. I bet Gandi and Hitler are laughing it up right now. I bet Mao and Mother Theresa are hugging and playing Monopoly. Yeah, I can picture it so clearly.

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Michael ArkAnglican said...

It was and is a gift freely given, but don't you have to accept a gift for it to be yours?

At 9:01 PM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

Lent Twenty

Disciple follow
Close - continue in my word
Know truth - love freely


At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, but Lowell said it was 'total and universal'. What does that mean Michael?

At 3:58 AM, Anonymous Michael ArkAnglican said...

"For God sent not His Son into the World to condemn the World, but that the World through Him might be saved."

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." Colossians 1:15-20

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

I can certainly imagine the total victory of God.

As each of us faces the fullness of divine life, whatever in us that is sinful, self-centered, or evil will come to full light, and that is our judgment. Whatever is not of God will become nothing, for it is nothing.

I do not believe that God will not lose anything that is God's. And I believe every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, carries within ourselves some kernel of divine life, love and truth. Though many of us are marred and distorted, our goodness is deeply disguised beneath our pathologies, whatever there may be of love and truth in us will not be lost, for it is of God.

So yes, I can imagine the divine reconciliation of Gandhi and Hitler, through a journey profound judgment and infinite grace. Now Hitler knows. He is shriven. He is also healed. And the loving child God intended when little Adolf was born can express the fullness of love, goodness and beauty that God planted in his soul from his beginning.

Yes, I can imagine such a thing. It is the evil of the cross being overcome by the resurrection of Jesus.


At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, I wonder why you choose not to give the reference for your first quote. Could it be you don't like the next verse?

Joh 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Condemned already. That is all of us until we believe.

At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Michael ArkAnglican said...

I didn't give the chapter and verse because I find it hard to believe that people reading this blog wouldn't know it.
The Cross and Christ Jesus resurrection was and is a gift.
The gift has been given. We only have to accept it.
But I will not and can not limit God.
God is still creating. He has plans for all of us.

At 8:08 PM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

I too can begin to imagine it - perfect love casting out all error.

Julian of Norwich speaks of our sins as our badges of honor in heaven. It took me months and months of reflection to begin to get my heart and head around that. Forgiveness, repentance, contrition, sorrow, moving into grace and peace and joy with Jesus because He is perfect love.

Thanks anon for the lead in.


At 8:27 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for this from Julian. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote. He imagined us almost boasting joyfully in heaven... -- "You think God forgave you a lot, let me tell you how much God has forgiven me..."

Somewhere Julian says something along these lines -- God in mercy doesn't give us a consciousness of our sins until God has already given us the grace to confess and be forgiven. I remember hearing the quote (maybe you can find it) in a conversation about the Vietnam War. The speaker was saying something about those who could not yet be aware of the immorality of the war. God, in grace, had not yet made them conscious of their sin because they did not yet have the capacity to confess...


At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, why don't you quote a verse to support you "accept it" notion?


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